Cruise booking: Arabia and India..
08 April 2013
I'm delighted to have been booked again by Voyages of Discovery to lecture on Voyager on what should be an amazing cruise in November - December of this year. The overall trip is being branded as a "Grand Voyage Across the Erythraean Sea", but it can also be done as two separate cruises.
The first is called "African and Arabian Adventure" (18th November to 4th December). This starts from Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, before visiting Safaga in Egypt and Djibouti, then Salalah and Muscat in Oman, and on to Fujairah and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where that leg ends. The second cruise. "Tales of India and Arabia" (3rd to 19th December) will be even more exciting for me. Starting in Dubai, it visits Abu Dhabi (also UEA), Khasab in Oman, then Porbandar, Mumbai, Marmagao and Cochin (all India) before moving on to Colombo in Sri Lanka, where the cruise ends. Full details are on my Cruise Bookings page.
"Saga Ruby" Grand Voyage..
08 April 2013
I've just returned from lecturing on an amazing three-week leg of Saga Ruby's reorganised Grand Voyage, from Rio to Cape Town (see news story below). We visited Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn, and did manage to land at Stanley in the Falklands (although that was a close thing, with strong gusty winds making tendering ashore difficult). The high point of the cruise for most of us was a few hours in the bay off the settlement on Tristan da Cunha. It was too windy to get the ship's tenders into the harbour there, but some of the islanders got out to talk to the passengers and to sell their woollens, philatelic goods, postcards, teeshirts and other goodies - and did some very brisk business indeed. That was a real bonus as we were the first cruise ship this season that the islanders had been able to get onto.
It was great to catch up with old friends on the island -- and the sheer numbers of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses around the ship were memorable too. En route, we saw 6 species of albatross, plus a very good variety of petrels and shearwaters, so I now have some very useable identification shots for future cruises.
Natural Wonders of Latin America..
05 March 2013
We've just returned from our first cruise trip on board Voyager, the newly rebranded sister ship to Discovery; it's always strange getting to know a new ship, and there were a few teething problems, but Voyager has great potential and certainly has an excellent sun deck for sea-watching. We saw masses of life at sea, including a good view of a blue whale and our first sighting of southern right whale dolphins (the cetacean with the most confusing English name!), and we saw an amazing variety of albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels. The weather wasn't particularly kind to us, especially in the rainy Chilean fjords, and we weren't able to land at Port Stanley in the Falklands because of blustery winds, but Peninsula Valdes from Puerto Madryn was a real highlight, with great views of guanacos, maras, elephant seals, Magellanic penguins and even grey foxes (nice photos to upload to above-and-below.com sometime). It's even nicer to think I'll be back there later this month on "Saga Ruby" (see story below).
Saving Species on Radio 4..
29 January 2013
Two interviews I recorded last year are currently scheduled for the BBC Radio 4 series Saving Species. The programme on Tuesday 5th February will feature an interview in Iceland about arctic foxes, recorded whilst we watched a gorgeous semi-tame but wild arctic fox cub that had befriended a local dog. The following programme, and last of the current series, on Tuesday 12th February is scheduled to include a report I recorded on the Caribbean island of Antigua about an amazing natural 'biodiversity hotspot' they have recently discovered there, on an island otherwise hugely changed by human activities. As both programmes are live, schedules can always change at the last minute.
Both programmes got out at 1102hrs on the Tuesday, repeated at 2102hrs on the Thursday evening. They can also be accessed via the Saving Species website here (as can previous programmes to which I contributed).
Latest cruise booking..
29 January 2013
The lovely old Saga Ruby - due to go into retirement this November - has been having major problems lately as a result of a broken crank shaft, and her World Cruise has had to be cancelled. However, she's leaving on a revised itinerary exploring the Atlantic shores on February 20th, I believe, and I'm delighted to be joining her on the leg between Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town (16th March to 6th April 2013). Ports of call include Montevideo in Uruguay, Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn, Port Stanley in the Falklands, and Tristan da Cunha (although the chances of actually landing there in late March are perhaps minimal!). I look forward to revisiting all these ports, and especially a second opportunity to meet all Sue's friends on Tristan. This cruise is currently only available to those who originally booked on the World Cruise, but it might be worth contacting Saga to see if any spaces are available.
Highlights of 2012..
21 September 2012
Already 2012 has been a great year. We began it with a visit to the Falkland Islands (see Tristan da Cunha cruise below), then in April we briefly visited the wonderful Bandia Wildlife Reserve near Dakar in Senegal before spending three days on the Cape Verde islands, where we got to know some of the islands' endemic flowers. June took us back to Svalbard (where we were able to successfully land this year), including our first visit to the weird but intriguing Barentsburg. Then late August saw me (without Sue) on a trip to Iceland on board Quest for Adventure, which called at many unusual ports on the east and north of the island, and, along the way, provide opportunities to record some unusual interviews for Saving Species on BBC Radio 4 (coming soon!). All these trips yielded many photographs, the best of which we will try to upload to www.above-and-below.com before too long.
Latest cruises announced..
01 September 2012
We are coming to the end of another busy year of cruising, with a lecturing trip for me (without Sue) to Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia and Antigua in the Caribbean in November. Although many companies are cutting down on their lecture bookings so they can sell the extra cabins instead, we have some great bookings for both of us at the start of 2013: to the Amazon in January 2013, around the south of South America in February 2013, and in the Indian Ocean in March 2013. Other bookings are a rather slow to come in at present (a sign of the financial times), and we are sad to see that "Saga" is abandoning its "Adventure" brand, and Voyages of Discovery has returned to just one ship, "Voyager" (see separate news story on "Discovery").
Details of all our cruise bookings are on a page that we've newly-added to the site here.
Wild Flowers Mini-Guide..
10 July 2012
To complement my Scottish Wild Flowers book, Birlinn Ltd has now published a smaller 'Mini Guide to Scottish Wild Flowers'. This is a stripped-down, 200-page version of the original guide, covering the commonest Scottish species but in rather less detail, and with fewer features. It's ideal for the car glove-box or the bottom of the rucksac, and is available from Amazon (see link on the right).